A Swallow Press Book
“At a time when we hear all too much of a nonverbal (that is, mindless) theatre, it is a joy to hear the poet’s voice; and when it is James Schevill’s, it is no voice from the stratosphere it is down on earth, not just a lyric but also a satiric voice, the voice of a theatre both poetic and political.”
In a time that emphasizes media spectaculars, the short play offers an exploration of minimal possibilities yet has the power to fix history in a moment's structure, a flash of revelation. The short play is a powerful and innovative theatrical medium, relying upon compression and clarity rather than amplification, and reducing character and action to a spare, dramatic core.
Schevill uses the short play to explore the power of the American environment and its expression in singularly American idioms and rhythms.
This collection inclues work produced between the late 1940s and the early 1980s, ranging in theme from politics to marriage and sexuality to work and identity. Many of the plays in this collection were originally performed at La Mama (New York), The Actor’s Workshop (San Francisco), Magic Theatre (San Francisco), The Guthrie Theatre (Minneapolis), and the Wastepaper Theatre (for short plays) in Providence of which Schevill is a co–founder.
James Schevill is a poet, playwright, and Emeritus Professor of English at Brown University. He has published numerous collections of poetry, many plays which have been produced in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and a novel based on his experiences in World War II. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Margot.
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In 1970 Adrian Hall’s production of Lovecraft’s Follies by the Trinity Repertory Company was praised in The New York Times as a “hilarious extravaganza—with music—that is also an earnest attempt to come to grips with the guilts and terrors of the Age of Technology.” The sucess of this production heralded James Schevill’s arrival as an important American playwright dedicated to a new kind of theatre that he calls in the introduction to this book, “Poetic Realism.”
Garrick Davis’s Terminal Diagrams may have been inspired by the illustrated maps in airport lounges, or perhaps they are the blueprints of the Apocalypse, with their subjects and objects representing the bitter fruits of either some future nightmare or the present world. Regardless, their vision is so bleak and unsparing, only a few will be able to savor them. Here, the art of poetry has been mechanized just as the world has been mechanized.
More than seventy-five works in six genres. Featured are the previously unpublished play Herrick and two one-act plays, largely ignored for a century, that demonstrate Dunbar’s subversion of the minstrel tradition.